by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
As part of our Thanksgiving 2019 series, Dr. Terry Stoops published a research brief on the Thanksgiving Day lessons of teachers’ past. Stoops writes:
In 1959, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction published “Observance of Special Days,” a guide to celebrating the holidays in the state’s public schools. The publication includes an overview of the holiday, concepts for students to learn, suggested activities, and resources, including books, periodicals, music, plays, poems, and films, designed to enhance the lesson.
The lesson guide offers noble goals for teachers, namely:
- To develop an understanding in the child of gratitude and deeper reasons for being thankful. (Home, school, church, friends, etc.)
- To develop and enrich the acts of sharing.
- To develop a knowledge of what the early Americans did for our country.
- To help develop the ability to work in a group.
The suggested activities include:
- Write and illustrate a story of the first Thanksgiving
- Write and illustrate individual books on the things for which we are thankful.
- Make murals of the first Thanksgiving and of today’s Thanksgiving.
- Make up food baskets with food brought by the children to share with someone less fortunate than we are.
- Make table decorations for mother (dry arrangement to be used some time during the holiday).
- Make shadow boxes depicting various stages of development pertaining to Thanksgiving.
Bringing back the goals of these lessons should be welcomed. Dr. Stoops comments:
Despite historical inaccuracies in some accounts of the first Thanksgiving and the Plymouth Colony, which warrant acknowledgment and correction, lessons on Thanksgiving in elementary school were designed to be celebrations of kindness, gratitude, discovery, and other humane virtues. It is a tradition worth reviving.